Thursday evening in Eugene, the Huskies will face their BFF’s, the Oregon Ducks. Everyone knows the two schools adore each other, should be a fun game. It’s the last time the Huskies will play at McArthur Court. Next season they’ll play at the Ducks’ new playground, Matthew Knight Arena (very popular among the folks in Oregon…).
Anyway, on to the game. In January I witnessed the Ducks defeat the Huskies 90-79 in what was clearly the Ducks best game of the year (after the win, they proceeded to lose ten of their next twelve, sealing Ernie Kent’s fate as a lame-duck coach (pun intended…)…) and probably the worst game the Huskies have played at home in at least two years. Malcolm Armstead and Michael Dunigan absolutely killed the Huskies with dribble drive penetration and toughness on the boards. Dunigan had 14 boards. Might-mouse Tajuan Porter was quiet in the first half, but came alive in the second from downtown. Oregon shot a sizzling 53% from the floor for the game, probably well over 60% in the second half. I came away thinking there was really no way Oregon was going to lose that game. Their whole team was in the zone. I give more credit to the Ducks for winning that game than for the Huskies losing.
On the UW side, it was clearly Matthew Bryan-Amaning’s worst game of the year. 21 minutes, 1point. Dunigan completely owned him all game physically. This game put MBA in Romar’s doghouse (again, pun intended), which I think has lead to MBA’s emergence over the past two month (more on that in a minute). The big three of Thomas (25pts, 11-12 FT), Pondexter (16pts, 6Rbs) and Overton (14pts) played well, I really have no complaints on the offensive end. Defensively, the Huskies were horrible. Armstead consistently drove past Overton and Thomas and had clean layups. None of the Huskies bigs got in his way and put him on his butt. Overall it was a sad defensive display by the Dawgs. Couple that with lights-out shooting by the Ducks, and you have the result.My how things have changed. Since that game, as I mentioned, the Ducks have fallen apart. There is no question in my mind Ernie Kent is gone. With a new arena coming next year, UO will look to make a splash with a new coach (Mark Few?). Because of this, the team has quit listening to Coach Kent. Granted they beat the LA schools this past weekend in LA, but they also swept them in Eugene earlier in the year. Can you say “favorable match-ups”? Therefore I don’t put too much into those wins. Against everyone else they have been lousy. At the same time, the Huskies have began to right the ship on the road, and MBA has emerged as a real threat on both ends of the floor. In fact I venture to guess he is the best offensive big man in the conference right now. No joke. He played extremely well against DeAngelo Casto, who leads the league in blocks, and has been consistently under control the past eight games or so. I haven’t been as hard on MBA as most people have been. I have always thought he has tremendous talent, he just needs to be coached up. In fact after the win at Wazzu Saturday, MBA credited none other then Jamaal “Junkyard Dawg” Williams for his post play improvements. I find it ironic and humorous that one offensive black hole is giving tips to another. (man, I loved Williams. Guy never saw a shot he didn’t like. He was a beast against UConn. Did I just mention the UConn game? DOH!!!).
Prediction? I see the Dawgs winning this one. They have confidence they can win on the road, they have the revenge factor working for them, and frankly they have more to play for. I expect MBA to play well, and look for Pondexter to bounce back after his first real down game of the year at Wazzu. This game, I feel, will come down to how MBA and Pondexter play on the block. Oregon’s guards are quick enough to keep up with Thomas and Overton. Maybe the trio of Suggs/Turner/Holiday will deliver some much needed offense, and bring it on defense. Frankly this game will come down to hustle, who wants it more on defense, and that’s where the Huskies will beat the Ducks. The only way Oregon wins this game is if they shoot lights out once again, and they have not proven in subsequent Pac-10 play they can replicate what they did in Seattle two months ago. The game will be in the 60’s, Huskies win a close one by 5.